Ravens support league's decision

Losing Monday game `pales by comparison'

Terrorism Strikes America

September 14, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The return of Monday night football to Baltimore became an uncertainty yesterday.

In observance of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the Ravens' prime-time matchup with the Minnesota Vikings was one of the 15 NFL games this weekend called off by commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Ravens owner Art Modell voiced his opposition to play the games during yesterday's owners conference call and said a decision whether to reschedule or cancel the Week 2 games could be reached as early as today.

Modell favors playing these scratched games during the wild-card weekend (Jan. 5-6) and cutting the wild-card spots in each conference from three to one. There remains a chance that the league could play a 15-game schedule - except for the San Diego Chargers, who had a bye this weekend. That option would wipe out the first Monday night appearance in Ravens history and the only one scheduled in Baltimore this season.

"As far as the Monday night game, the loss pales by comparison with the losses that other people have experienced," Modell said.

Ravens coach Brian Billick told his team after its morning workout about the cancellation, a decision that received strong support from the players. The Ravens, who beat the Chicago Bears, 17-6, in their season opener, are in the midst of a two-week layoff before playing at the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 23.

"For me, I kind of knew it was going to happen because how can anybody play when something like this is happening in New York and Washington?" left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "It's something that's real touchy right now and we've got to stand together as a league. I was kind of glad that we get to pay this much respect."

Other players reacted in disbelief over the decision.

"I kind of went blank for a moment," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "There was disappointment naturally because you want to play. But at the same time, I understood where the decision came from."

On Wednesday, Billick had urged the league to play Sunday and Monday, saying, "I don't want cowards to dictate what we do in this country." Yesterday, he backed the NFL's stance.

"That was simply a personal perspective, more emotional than anything else," Billick said "There are a number of compelling reasons why not to play this weekend and we'll support that. I'm not surprised by it. Quite frankly, I probably would have been more surprised had it gone the other way."

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, the Ravens' union representative, said the players were against suiting up this weekend because of their concern for the teams in New York and Washington.

The tragedy in New York, meanwhile, has touched some Ravens more than others.

Defensive end Rob Burnett grew up on Long Island and has three friends who are missing. He has yet to hear from a high school friend who was a security guard at the World Trade Center, as well as two friends from college who work at Morgan Stanley, a brokerage firm based in one of the towers.

"Every day that goes by, the prognosis gets worse," Burnett said. "You can't even measure the amount of damage both structurally, physically and emotionally with families. It's a nightmare."

Siragusa, who grew up 25 minutes outside of New York in Kenilworth, N.J., seems in shock over the situation.

"I'm dreading going back to New Jersey," he said. "Looking at the skyline and not seeing the Twin Towers there, I don't know how I'm going to react."

The Ravens are scheduled to practice today and tomorrow for abbreviated, 75-minute sessions. After taking Sunday off, they will resume their normal routine leading into their game at Cincinnati.

For now, the Ravens and fans alike have to wait on the decision whether to reschedule or cancel Baltimore's first Monday night game in 23 years.

"This was going to be a well-deserved platform for the city of Baltimore and this organization," Billick said. "But it is very mundane given the circumstances."

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